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Vatnajökull, NASA satellite image

Vatnajökull, NASA satellite image

location Southeast of Iceland
Type Plateau glacier
length 150 km from west to east and 100 km from north to south
surface 8100 km²
Altitude range 1800  m  -  600  m
Ice thickness ⌀ 400 m; Max. 900 m
Ice volume 3300 km³
Coordinates 64 ° 24 ′  N , 16 ° 48 ′  W Coordinates: 64 ° 24 ′  N , 16 ° 48 ′  W
Vatnajokull (Iceland)
drainage various outlet glaciers
particularities largest glacier in Europe outside the polar region , covers various volcanic systems
Breiðamerkurjökull, one of the outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull

Breiðamerkurjökull, one of the outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull

Template: Infobox Glacier / Maintenance / Image description missing
Grímsvötn in Vatnajökull

The Vatnajökull [ 'vahtnaˌjœˑkʏtl̥ ] ( Isl. For "water glacier ") is the largest glacier in Iceland and also the largest in Europe outside the polar region . It is a plateau glacier in the southeast of the country. Its area is around 8,100 km², which corresponds to about 8% of the area of ​​Iceland. The ice volume is estimated at over 3,000 km³.


The thickness of the ice layer is up to 900 meters. Some of the most active volcanoes on the island lie beneath the glacier and between them a valley about 500 to 800 m deep. Since September 12, 2004, over 50% of Vatnajökull has been in Skaftafell National Park . On June 7, 2008, the area of ​​the glacier was incorporated into the newly established Vatnajökull National Park , which is now the largest national park in Europe. In the south of Vatnajökull National Park is Morsárfoss , the highest waterfall in Iceland .


Formation and growth of the glacier

Like many other glaciers in Iceland, Vatnajökull was formed around 2,500 years ago.

At the time of the conquest in the 9th century AD, the glacier was significantly smaller than it is today. For example, the Esjufjöll (not to be confused with the Esja near Reykjavík ) were outside the actual glacier, whereas today they are in the middle of it.

The so-called Little Ice Age began in the 15th century and lasted in Iceland until around 1890. The Vatnajökull increased as a result.

Reduction of the ice surface

Like most glaciers, Vatnajökull has been losing size for some years, since the end of the 19th century by 10%, i.e. by 10%. H. approx. 300 km³, which means a contribution of 1 mm to the current rise in sea level. Possible reasons given are global climate change ( greenhouse effect ) and the volcanic activities of recent years - the volcanoes Grímsvötn and Bárðarbunga , which lie under the glacier, are among the most active on the island (see also glacier retreat ).

The raising of the country is directly related to this. The severity of the ice cap that weighs on the land is decreasing. As a result, the affected country stands out.

Volcanic activity

The highest point in Iceland at 2,110 meters above sea level. d. M., the volcano Hvannadalshnjúkur , is located in the south of Vatnajökull.

There are a number of active volcanic centers and subglacial volcanoes under the Vatnajökull ice cap :

A high-temperature system with burglar boilers is located west of the Grímsvötn, the Skaftárkatlar . Under the cauldrons, condensation water collects every 3 years up to once a year, which, similar to the Grímsvötn, finally breaks through an ice barrier and flows into the sea via the Skaftá river . These glacier runs, however, usually only have a very small volume of 400 to 1,500 m³ / s. But because they can grow very quickly and u. U. carry poisonous gases with them, the Skaftárkatlar are well monitored.

On November 1, 2004, there was an eruption on the Grímsvötn , which sent a flood over the Skeiðarársandur . However, the flood by no means came close to the flood of 1996 and was only 2,000 m³ / s at its highest level. The region did not need to be evacuated during this eruption . Only the air traffic was partially diverted. Ash particles from the eruption were already detectable in Finland on November 3rd .

The Bárðarbunga was last active from August 2014 to February 2015, the Grímsvötn last in May 2011.

Glacier run on Köldukvíslarjökull

Jökulsárlón glacial lake on Vatnajökull

On July 12 and 13, 2011, tremors were found at Loki-Fögrufjöll volcano , which was followed by a glacier run from the side glacier Köldukvíslarjökull, which belongs to Vatnajökull, over the Sveðja river . This was mostly caught by the Hágöngulón reservoir , with the water level in the 37 km² lake rising by 70 centimeters. The amount of liquid was estimated at 26 gigalitres. At its peak between 2 am and 4 am on the night of July 13, 2011, over 2,000 m³ / s flowed into the reservoir. During a flight over the glacier, a newly formed basin in the glacier ice was discovered at Hamarinn . During another flight over the glacier on July 18, 2011, scientists found two new burglar kettles and installed measuring devices on the Hamarinn. Samples were also taken from the water of the Sveðja river in order to investigate whether the course of the glacier would have thawed regularly through the newly discovered high-temperature area on the Hamarinn, whereby the water would first have collected in a subglacial lake and then would have broken through after reaching a critical amount, or due to a subglacial volcanic eruption.

Overview of volcanic eruptions in volcanic systems under Vatnajökull since Iceland was settled

Numerous volcanic eruptions can only be assumed, as their force was insufficient to thaw the glacier, which is up to 900 m thick, and they were only noticeable over the course of the glacier. The overview follows i. A. Representations of the Institute for Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland

volcano year Volcanic system Accompanying glacier run (river)
Veiðivötn 0900 Bárðarbunga
0905 Grímsvötn
0940 Bárðarbunga
unknown origin 1000
1060 Grímsvötn
1080 Bárðarbunga
1159 Bárðarbunga
1332 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
1341 Grímsvötn
1354 Grímsvötn
Öræfajökull 1362 Öræfajökull various rivers
1410 Bárðarbunga
Veiðivötn 1477 Bárðarbunga Jökulsá á Fjöllum
1500 Grímsvötn
1598 Grímsvötn
1603 Grímsvötn
1619 Grímsvötn
1629 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
1638 Grímsvötn
1659 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
unknown origin 1681
1684-85 Grímsvötn, Dyngjufjöll
1697 Bárðarbunga Skeiðará
unknown origin (1702, uncertain)
1706 Grímsvötn, Bárðarbunga
1707 Bárðarbunga
1711-12 Bárðarbunga Jökulsá á Fjöllum
1716 Grímsvötn, Bárðarbunga Jökulsá á Fjöllum
1717 Bárðarbunga Jökulsá á Fjöllum
1720 Bárðarbunga
1725 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
1726 Dyngjufjöll , towards Grímsvötn Jökulsá á Fjöllum
Öræfajökull 1727 Öræfajökull various rivers
unknown origin 1729 Jökulsá á Fjöllum
1739 Bárðarbunga
Síðujökull 1753 Djúpá , Hverfisfljót , Skaftá
1766 Bárðarbunga Þjórsá
unknown origin 1768
1769 Bárðarbunga or Grímsvötn
1766 Bárðarbunga Þjórsá
1774 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
Laki 1783 Grímsvötn Skaftá, Þjórsá
1784-85 Grímsvötn Núpsvötn , Skeiðará
Western Vatnajokull 1794, probably
Northwest Vatnajökull, Dyngjuháls 1798
Northwest Vatnajokull 1807, presumably
1816 Grímsvötn
Þórðarhýrna 1823 Grímsvötn
1838 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
1854 Grímsvötn
1861 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
Tröllagígar 1862-64 Bárðarbunga
Háabunga , Þórðarhýrna 1867 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
Dyngjuháls (1872, uncertain) Bárðarbunga
Þórðarhýrna 1873 Grímsvötn Skeiðará, Djúpá
1883 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
1883 Grímsvötn, Kverkfjöll Skeiðará
Þórðarhýrna 1887 Grímsvötn Súla
1892 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
1897 Grímsvötn
Dyngjuháls 1902-03 Bárðarbunga Jökulsá á Fjöllum
Þórðarhýrna 1903 Grímsvötn Skeiðará, Súla
unknown origin 1903 Jökulsá á Brú
Easternmost Loki kettle 1910
1911 Grímsvötn Skeiðará, Súla
1927 Esjufjöll Jökulsá á Breiðarmerkursandi
unknown origin 1933 Skjálfandafljót
North of the Grímsvötn 1933 Grímsvötn
1934 Grímsvötn Skjálfandafljót, Skeiðará, Súla, Jökulsá á Fjöllum
1938 Grímsvötn Skeiðará
(1941, presumed) Grímsvötn Skeiðará
(1944, presumed) Grímsvötn Skeiðará
(1954, presumed) Grímsvötn Skeiðará
1968 Kverkfjöll
1983 Grímsvötn
1984 Grímsvötn
Easternmost Loki kettle (1986, presumed) Bárðarbunga Skaftá
1996 Bárðarbunga
Gjálp 1996 Grímsvötn Skeiðará, Súla, Skjálfandafljót, Jökulsá á Fjöllum
Grímsvötn 1998 Grímsvötn Skeiðará, Súla
Grímsvötn 2004 Grímsvötn Skeiðará, Súla
Grímsvötn (2010, presumed) Grímsvötn Skeiðará, Súla
Grímsvötn 2011 Grímsvötn
Hamarinn (2011, presumed) Bárðarbunga Sveðja
Holuhraun 2014 Bárðarbunga

Vatnajokull National Park

The Vatnajökull National Park has existed since 2008. It covers 12,000 km², that is 12% of the country's surface. The Vatnajökull glacier lies in it as well as the former Skaftafell National Park, the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park and the Laki Crater . It is divided into a northern, southern, western and eastern area.

See also


  • Ari Trausti Guðmundsson: Living Earth. Facets of the geology of Iceland. Mál og Menning, Reykjavík 2007, pp. 219-253.
  • Ari Trausti Guðmundsson, Halldór Kjartansson: Land in becoming. An outline of the geology of Iceland. Vaka-Helgafell, Reykjavík 1996, pp. 35-48.
  • Hjörleifur Guttormsson, Oddur Sigurðson: Leyndardómur Vatnajökuls. Viðerni, fjöll and byggðir. Stórbrotin náttúra, eldgos og jökulhlaup. Reykjavík (Fjöll og firnindi) 1997 ISBN 9979-60-325-9

Web links


Commons : Vatnajökull  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Scientific items

To glaciology

To the volcanic systems under Vatnajökull

To Vatnajökull National Park


Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Guðfinna Aðalgeirsdóttir: Flow dynamics of Vatnajökull ice cap, Iceland. Dissertation, ETH Zurich, 2002 ( online ( memento of the original dated December 28, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note .; PDF; 7.7 MB) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. a b Vatnajokull - Europe's largest icecap ,
  3. cf. Helgi Björnsson, Vísindavefurinn Háskóla Íslands Accessed: April 17, 2011 (Icelandic)
  4. Since a general glacier recession set in at the end of the 19th century, the largest icecap, Vatnajökull, has decreased by about 10% in volume (300 km³), contributing 1 mm to the concurrent rise in sea level. In: Helgi Björnsson, Finnur Pálsson: Icelandic Glaciers. Univ. of Iceland, 2008. Retrieved February 25, 2010.
  5. Volcanic eruptions beneath the ice cap Vatnajökull , ed. Geophysic Devision of the Science Institute, Univ. of Iceland (overview of the large subglacial volcanoes under Vatnajökull and the dangers associated with them, Vulkanolog. Inst., Háskóli Íslands) ( Memento of the original from May 27, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked . Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (English); Accessed April 20, 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Skaftárkatlar. Vöktun eldstöðvar. Jarðvísindastofnun Háskólans (Icelandic); Accessed August 5, 2011
  7. cf. z. B. Bergur Einarsson: Rannsóknir á jökulhlaupi frá vestari Skaftárkatli. Veðurstofa Íslands, July 27, 2009 (Icelandic); Accessed August 5, 2011
  8. Órói við Lókahrygg í Vatnajökli. Veðurstófan Íslands (Icelandic); Accessed July 17, 2011
  9. cf. also: Hlaupið að líkindum yfirstaðið., July 13, 2011 (Icelandic); Accessed July 17, 2011
  10. Hágöngulón fylltist í hlaupinu., July 13, 2011 (Icelandic); Accessed July 17, 2011
  11. Hlaupið í rénun , Web newspaper Vísir, July 13, 2011 (Icelandic); Accessed July 17, 2011
  12. Sigketill við Lokahrygg . Veðurstófan Íslands, July 14, 2011 (Icelandic); Accessed July 17, 2011
  13. Fréttir , RÚV, July 19, 2011 (evening news from the state television station RÚV, Icelandic); Accessed July 19, 2011
  14. Reported volcanic eruptions and jökulhlaups in and from Vatnajökull. Ed. Geophysical Institute, Univ. Iceland. ( Memento of the original from May 27, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (English); Accessed July 20, 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  15. On the outbreaks since 1996: Institute of Earth Sciences, Univ. Iceland (English); Accessed July 20, 2011